In the universe are billions of galaxies, in our galaxy are billions of planets, but there is Only One Earth – that’s the message of this year’s World Environment Day. The hashtag on social media is #OnlyOneEarth, and the global campaign calls for collective, transformative action to celebrate, protect and restore the planet. For most Serbian citizens, a healthy environment has become more important than the economy.
The environment requires urgent solutions. Due to the triple planetary crisis, climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and the increase in pollution and waste, the need for action to protect the planet is now more important than ever, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
World Environment Day on June 5th has been celebrated since 1973 and has grown into the largest global platform for environmental protection, according to UNEP, which is leading the initiative.
Only One Earth was also the slogan of the first United Nations conference on the human environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. This put sustainable development on the global agenda.
Half a century later, the planet faces multiple emergencies. Climate change is happening too fast for humans and nature to adapt to it. The loss of habitat and many other pressures on the planetary ecosystem lead to the estimate that as many as one million species are threatened with extinction. Air, soil, and water are continuously polluted.
The way out requires the transformation
Nature is in emergency mode, time is running out, and ecologists warn once again. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, it is necessary to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
If the necessary actions are not taken, exposure to air pollution outside the safety guidelines will increase by 50 percent over the decade, while plastic waste going to aquatic ecosystems will almost triple by 2040.
One way out of the ecological crisis is the transformation of the economy and society, to become inclusive, fair, and more connected with nature
One way out of such a situation is the transformation of the economy and society, to become inclusive, fair, and more connected with nature. It is necessary to move from causing damage to the planet, to its healing, and the good news is that solutions and technologies exist and are increasingly accessible, according to UNEP.
The UN Environment Programme emphasizes that transformations toward a sustainable system must be accessible and open to individuals and their daily lifestyles. This means aligning decisions on how to live in cities, in homes, how and where to invest money, all the way to how individuals have fun and spend their free time.
However, social relations of the greater magnitude, in the domain of energy, production systems, global trade, transport systems, and biodiversity protection also have a major and crucial impact.
Transformations of these relationships can only be created by larger entities, national governments, financial institutions, businesses, international organizations, and other institutions that have the power to make rules and decisions, to “frame our ambitions and open up new horizons”, UNEP noted.
In addition, individuals and civil society are key in advocating, raising awareness, and supporting decisions regarding future transformations towards sustainable systems.
Lifestyle & Consumption
Humanity spends the equivalent of 1.6 Earth’s renewable resources, to maintain its current way of life. So, much more than nature can restore. The Overshoot day in 2021 was July 29. Beyond that date, all of the planet’s spent resources are non-renewable. Ecosystems cannot keep up with such demands and consumption.
Modern lifestyles are associated with two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable lifestyles and behaviors could reduce emissions by 40 to 70% by 2050, according to UNEP.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that there is a huge disparity in the consumption of resources, between high-income countries and developing countries.
Perception of the environment in Serbia
According to a survey on the threat to the environment in Serbia, conducted by CeSID Opinion Polling Agency in collaboration whit UNDP Serbia, the citizens are most concerned about air pollution (26%), water pollution (13%), unregulated landfills (12%), and Rio Tinto ranked fourth (8%).
In favoring ecology or the economy, 67% of citizens give priority to ecology, 21% give equal importance to both, while only 12% of respondents believe that the economy is more important.
The authors of the research pointed out the results of the public opinion survey concerning the environment:
- The citizens of Serbia know what needs to be done for better environmental protection, but they are not ready to personally allocate more money for it.
- There is a gap between the habits and attitudes of Serbian citizens about the environment.
- There is a significant gap in understanding and trust between citizens and institutions working on environmental issues.
The research also showed that the citizens of Serbia are aware that climate change is a reality. Respondents cite the development of world industry as the cause of climate change (41%), while the same percentage of citizens note that they are the result of human activity.
To prevent environmental threats, citizens believe the state should impose stricter penalties. To increase penalties for businesses, companies, and polluting mines (27%), and for citizens who polute (19%).
Citizens feel that the government should impose stricter penalties
The solution the government could take is also to support environmental organizations (14%). The state should prevent forest logging and work on reforestation, for which 13% of respondents opted, as much as for subsidies for sorting waste and recycling.